BRIGHTON, MA – One thing that’s been interesting about this season’s change in coaching staff for the Boston Bruins has been the shift in terminology and mindset. Every coach has different buzzwords and different ways to get their message across, and after a certain amount of time those things begin to sink in.
One big area of emphasis for new Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery has been about focusing on the process, and it’s something that’s begun to pick up in the B’s dressing room among the players as they’ve roared out to a 19-3-0 start to the regular season. To hear Montgomery tell it, focusing on the process allows players to be in the moment and not get distracted by what’s already past or what lies directly ahead.
“I think it keeps you in the moment. It keeps you present,” said Montgomery. “You don’t think about what’s happened and you don’t get too happy with yourself from the past. You don’t start focusing on the future, which is results. You just stay in the moment and you focus on what we think gives us success. It allows you to be consistently successful.”
The mindset is really 100 percent synergistically perfect with Boston Bruins Captain Patrice Bergeron, who has also preached his B’s teammates to “stay in the moment” regardless of what’s going on around them. It’s also a big reason why so many got it wrong when it came to the Boston Bruins changing coaches from Bruce Cassidy to Montgomery. So there’s got to be a story behind this philosophy being so deeply engrained in Montgomery at this point, right? It turns out there is and it’s the kind of personal experience that tells a great deal about the Boston Bruins head coach as a competitor and as a student of hockey.
Even better, it’s got a New England flavor to it as it took place while Montgomery was a sophomore forward at the University of Maine playing Northern Michigan in St. Paul, Minnesota during the 1991 Frozen Four.
“I know exactly where it came from. As a player I failed miserably during my first time at the Frozen Four,” said Montgomery, who is still the career points leader at Maine with 301 points in 170 games for the Black Bears. “And I remember coming down from my room down to the bus to get ready for the game, and our college band was there playing our fight song. And there must have been 500 people in the lobby of the hotel, and I was thinking [to myself] ‘Oh my god, this game is bigger than any game I’ve played.’ And I choked.
“I said I’m never going to let that happen again and I began honing in on my own process. That allowed me to have success and I don’t think I ever choked again. So it was a learning moment, and I took that and thought there’s got to be a way that I can impart that on my players. So that they stay in the moment, and they don’t start thinking ‘Jesus, we’re in the Stanley Cup Final’ or ‘This person is here [at the game].’ There’s got to be a mechanism and a routine that you have that allows you to get to your ‘A’ game.”
The Black Bears lost to the Dallas Drake-led Northern Michigan in overtime where Montgomery admitted he could have been a difference-maker if he hadn’t “choked” during the game. Then Montgomery watched Northern Michigan win the NCAA title with a triple overtime 8-7 win over Boston University in the final during a memorable college hockey championship tournament.
All of it fueled a University of Maine team that won it all in 1993 when Montgomery was a senior and has become one of the pillars of his coaching philosophy that’s got the Boston Bruins on the winning track while focusing fully on the process along the way.